Everything the Light Touches Is…Oh Wait, That Light’s a Burning Bush (Allusions in The Lion King)

Who would have possibly thought that babysitting would lead to a Biblical allusion blog, huh? Nonetheless, it was in the midst of a bunch of kids that I really began mulling over the allusions that could be found in the Disney film The Lion King (protip: kids LOVE talking about biblical parallels within their cartoons, they can’t get enough of it).

Within the context of the film, I really began to see some striking similarities between Simba’s story and the narrative of Moses. That’s right, folks, it’s not just for Hamlet parallels anymore.

The resemblance is uncanny, don't you think?

The resemblance is uncanny, don’t you think?

Moses and Simba were both raised as royalty within their respective hierarchies. Although Moses was adopted into the Egyptian royal family, whereas Simba was the continuation of the line of rule by blood and succession, that link of status remains nonetheless. Similarly, both Simba and Moses were driven into exile by a murder. Simba was framed for the death of his father by his uncle Scar, whereas Moses killed an Egyptian after witnessing him beating a Hebrew man (Exodus 2).

During their exile, both Simba and Moses found support systems and built up friendships and relationships (Simba with Timon and Pumba, and Moses with the Midianites), giving them a sense of belonging and “found family” even in the face of exile and leaving the only homes they had ever known. Those groups themselves can be seen as a similar parallel. Timon and Pumba, despite their initial fear of Simba, soon take him under their wing and teach him how to survive on their terms in a new place. Despite Moses being a foreigner to them, Moses is welcomed into the fold of Midianites as well; he becomes a shepherd for them, marries the daughter of a priest of Midian, and builds a life with them in a new home.

maxresdefaultSimba and Moses were also both led to a greater calling in their lives by a heightened figure of power. Simba, upon reaching adulthood, is confronted by the spirit of his father, Mufasa, and tasked with taking up the destiny and responsibility of returning to his home and freeing his people from oppression. This parallels Moses and his encounter with God, who took the form of a burning bush in order to commission him with returning to Egypt and leading his people out of slavery and into their own freedom (Exodus 3). Both protagonists expressed reluctance to their respective callings, claiming that they weren’t worthy of the task and it shouldn’t fall to them to take on such a goal. Through this, we are given an understanding of the fact that both characters consider themselves to be rather unremarkable; Simba has willfully and consciously turned away from the responsibility to rule that was impressed upon him as a child, as he associates those memories with the death of his father and the inherent guilt tied into that, whereas Moses is said to be “slow of speech and tongue” and therefore fears being put in the spotlight and given the task of taking on a position of leadership. This sets up an intriguing parallel of reluctant, seemingly insignificant characters rising to a great task and prevailing.

Perhaps the burning bush also sounded like James Earl Jones.

Perhaps the burning bush also sounded like James Earl Jones.

Despite their initial hesitance, they both eventually take up that calling and return to free their respective people from oppression. Simba does this by deposing his uncle Scar and reclaiming his place as king over the land; Moses does not ascend to a position within the monarchy, but rather, through an ordeal of plagues and pleading with the Pharaoh, he is finally allowed to free his people and leave Egypt to seek their own land and prosperity.

Through these narratives, we see a strong correlation between the events and themes of the two. In the end, both protagonists rose to a higher calling in order to lead their people out of suffering and provide a better future for them. In this way, the framework for much of Simba’s narrative can be see as heavily alluding to the early years of Moses’s life and deeds.

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